Preview: Sweden vs. Algeria
Sweden and Algeria enter Saturday’s friendly at the Eleda Stadion in Malmo hoping to round off the calendar year with a morale-boosting victory.
Janne Andersson’s men ran out 2-1 winners over World Cup-bound Mexico in midweek, while their visitors could only draw 1-1 with Mali.
Neither Sweden nor Mexico put out their most intimidating lineups for their midweek friendly, with the latter preparing for their imminent World Cup duties, and Andersson’s side took advantage with a narrow triumph to damage Mexico’s momentum ahead of Qatar 2022.
Marcus Rohden and Mattias Svanberg struck either side of an equalizer from Alexis Vega to end Sweden’s five-game winless run, with the Scandinavian nation entering the end-of-year friendlies on the back of relegation to League C in the UEFA Nations League.
Sweden will not be the only Nordic nation watching the World Cup from home this year – Finland and Norway also failed to make it through while Denmark sealed progression – which marks quite the fall from grace following their quarter-final appearance in Russia four years ago.
Attention is now turning to a far from straightforward qualifying campaign for Euro 2024, as the Blue and Yellow prepare to meet Belgium, Austria, Estonia and Azerbaijan in their section, and defensive frailties have not been their friend recently.
Indeed, Vega’s consolation for Mexico stretched Sweden’s run without a clean sheet to six matches in all competitions, and they have failed to win any of their last three matches at home, with Norway, Serbia and Slovenia all coming away from Stockholm with at least a point in the Nations League.
Friendly matches have been Algeria’s bread and butter for the past few months, with the African powerhouses beating Iran, Guinea and Nigeria in exhibition games since June, but they came unstuck against Mali in a low-scoring draw on Wednesday.
Riyad Mahrez tucked home a penalty on the stroke of half time before RB Leipzig midfielder Massadio Haidara responded for Mali on the 58-minute mark, ending Algeria’s hot streak of five successive wins in all tournaments.
Djamel Belmadi’s men were memorably the victims of that last-gasp Karl Toko Ekambi goal against Cameroon in their World Cup qualifying playoff in March, which condemned them to a second successive period of no World Cup football, but their schedule for the New Year is jam-packed.
The Fennec Foxes will lock horns with Libya, Ethiopia and Mozambique in the African Nations Championship in January before they resume qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations, and Algeria have impressively won nine of their last 10 away games ahead of the long journey to Stockholm.
Sweden boast a record of three wins and a draw from four previous meetings with Algeria – all of which have been friendly matches – but not since 1990 have the two nations done battle, where former Arsenal and Sunderland man Stefan Schwarz scored in a 1-1 draw.
Sweden International Friendlies form:
Sweden form (all competitions):
Algeria International Friendlies form:
Algeria form (all competitions):
We say: Sweden 1-2 Algeria
Bringing the big-hitters back into the starting XI should bode well for an Algeria side who have a knack for winning away from home, but Sweden have their own experienced internationals waiting in the wings.
Andersson’s side will have the vociferous home support behind them, but a touch of additional quality in midfield and attack should help get Algeria over the line for their first-ever win over the Blue and Yellow.